Newsletter #64

NEWSLETTER 64: September 7, 2011

Dear People,

INTO THE HINTERLANDS, the space opera which John Lambshead wrote from my outline, should be out by the time you read this. I’m ridiculously pleased with the book. John’s style is nothing like mine, but the style of Hinterlands is quite different from the style of Lucy’s Blade (for example), also. I think the combination–this book really was a collaboration, though it’s taken me a while to see that–fits very well into John’s and my mutual view of our model.

Our model is the world of George Washington. The more I learn about the man, the more impressed I become. The Thirteen Colonies might have gained their independence without Washington, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have remained united if somebody other than he had been Commanding General and then our first President.

The Revolutionary War was conducted in the South as a civil war with irregulars on both sides using brutal guerrilla tactics. The same thing would have happened in the Northeast had not Washington been present to protect civilians; to protect civilization.

I wish there’d been somebody like him in Nam.

I should mention a few items associated with Hinterlands. First, John has written an essay for about science and culture in the universe of the novel and why we made some of the choices we did in adapting history to our project. He thinks it’s too academic, but I thought it was very good. Of course, I’m the guy whose law school class gave him a plaque for being Pedant of the Year.

Second, John and I have a joint author photo, but it didn’t get onto the dust-jacket because the double author bios didn’t leave space. It’s here on my website in case any of you want to print it and paste it onto the half-title or something.

I mentioned the biographies. John had written his own. When I saw a draft of the flap copy, I completely rewrote John’s myself, giving (I think) a better view of him as a friend and as a world-class scientist.

When the book itself arrived, I read over John’s bio, which pleased me; and then read my own, which did not. I think the person it describes is more similar to Heinlein than I hope I am.

After thinking about it, I’ve completely recast my flap bio into a form similar to what I did with John’s. The fellow in the original bio isn’t the way I see myself or somebody I really want to know (though it was accurate enough).

Since I’m speaking of the dust-jacket, contrast the original art (visible on the ARC) with the final treatment which Jennie Faries, Baen’s graphic designer and my friend, came up with. The cover is much more effective than the original art was. (I’ve had wonderful cover paintings from Bob Eggleton. This one puzzled me, however.)

My major project since Newsletter 63 has been plotting Into the Maelstrom, the sequel to Hinterlands. The first stage of the process was research, during which I compiled 8500 words of notes. I’m now mining those notes for a plot.

It’s going pretty well. After I complete and polish it, I’ll send it to John (who will be developing both sequels from my outlines, as he did Hinterlands) for his comments and corrections. When I’ve incorporated those, I’ll send the final back to John and to Toni Weisskopf (Baen Books’ publisher).

Whereupon I’ll start the next project, the third Book of the Elements (the new fantasy series for Tor). My working title is Demons from the Earth, but that could change. (Though you’ll notice that I have covered the objection of the Tor sales force to the title of the second volume: the element Earth is prominently displayed in this one.)

That second Book of the Elements, OUT OF THE WATERS, is on sale right now with a wonderful Donato cover. Tor is treating me very well. I am very fortunate in my covers as in many, many other fashions.

I’ve just received the short list of entries for The Galaxy Project prize contest. I’ll be judging them along with Robert Silverberg and Barry Malzberg (who made the initial cull). Reading the five finalists and making a decision will be work, but not nearly as much work as it was to write the three essays I did.

And it’s worth a great deal more to me than what it costs. The SF field and Galaxy magazine itself, which brought Jim Baen and me together, have been of enormous importance in my life. If Rosetta Books continues the project, as I hope they will, I expect to write more essays. The project isn’t live quite yet, but I hope when that happens (I think in a couple weeks) you’ll take a look at the offerings and buy something. You’ll gain by it.

A dump is a prepack of books from a publisher with a banner on top and a floor stand; a mini-dump with fewer pockets and no floor stand is intended for counter display, generally beside the cash register. My friend Mark walked into his local Barnes and Noble the other day and found this.

It pleased me very much to see. Instead of pushing the latest RCN mass market (What Distant Deeps), these are all older titles which Baen is reissuing at considerable profit to all concerned. Toni and Corinda Carfora (Baen’s sales liaison) are working very hard on behalf of their authors and are keeping the company healthy in a tough time.

There’s a new whimsical picture on the website as well. Every summer the Van Name and Drake extended family rents a large beach house. This year Glenn and Helen Knight were part of the group. Glenn and I are on the Holden Beach fishing pier, pointing out to our wives a pelican (off camera) which had just dived.

Glenn and I met through writer Manly Wade Wellman in 1974, and we’ve been friends ever since. The backgrounds of many of my books, including the recently republished Tom Kelly thrillers (Loose Cannon), came from visiting Glenn while he was in the Foreign Service.

I’ve gained a great deal from being a writer: it’s made me a good living over the years, and it kept me from going too badly off the rails after I got back to the World in 1971. A less obvious benefit is that in one fashion or another I’ve met most of my close friends, Glenn included, through my writing.

I’d be in a really bad place without friends.

Now, back to work. I’m about to plot the climactic battle. There have been various criticisms of my fiction, but I don’t recall anybody claiming that it lacked action.

–Dave Drake

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